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A Gideon Moment
By Robert F. Field
A Gideon Moment columns.
When I started as a public defender in 1976, I was quickly burning out,
handling what I considered to be insignificant minor cases. My boss kept
telling me that every case was important, and if you look hard enough
you will find the real meaning of our work in even the simplest of
In 1979, I was introduced to Rose Caoli by a prosecutor on the case who
told me that she needed a lawyer. He told me he was under a great deal
of political pressure to prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law.
Rose Caoli, a diminutive 70-year-old woman, stood before me clutching
rosary beads in her hands.
From the beginning she had complete faith in my ability to represent her
and had no doubt that God was on her side. By now I am sure you are
wondering what great crime Ms. Caoli committed. Well — take a breath —
she was charged with “feeding pigeons in the park.”
It seems my client believed that the Virgin Mary appeared in her bedroom
years before and assigned her
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